Koran upstages Bible in debate

REUTERS Vice President Joe Biden listens as Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan speaks during the vice-presidential debate on Oct. … Continued


Vice President Joe Biden listens as Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan speaks during the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 11, 2012.

The Koran – and not the Bible – was featured in a question for the 2012 vice-presidential debate. Moderator Martha Raddatz asked whether the United States should have apologized for “Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?”

Congressman Paul Ryan responded, “Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses? What we should not apologize for…

Raddatz broke in, “Burning Korans, immediately?” Ryan continued near seamlessly, “What — what we should not be apologizing for are standing up for our values.”

Ryan’s stance reflects basic etiquette in a diverse society. Once made aware, Americans respect the basic rules around anyone’s sacred text or objects.

View Photo Gallery: The ninth — and holiest — month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims around the globe refrain from eating and drinking during the day, began July 20.

Awareness naturally leads to curiosity. Other religions are curious about a religion with 1 billion adherents worldwide, leading to books like “Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide” and “The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.” Because of that curiosity, along with the intense conflicts over faith in the modern world and the passion of adherents, audiences can expect to see more references to the Koran in politics and media discussions – and even as a central theme in films, novels and art.

And that could lead to new consternations because rules over the treatment of the Koran are many. Non-believers are not supposed to handle the book, but listen to others reading or wear gloves. Believers are expected to make formal ablutions – ritualized cleaning – before touching the book. The book must be stored in a special place and kept closed – though curators maintain that regularly turning pages of an old book on display assists with preservation. The Koran describes itself as “honored,” “a book that is protected/None shall touch it save the purified ones.” (56.78-79)

Online translations and interpretations from American universities and beyond are plentiful. Perhaps more amazing is how many young Muslim men have memorized the entire book, hundreds of verses, in Arabic – capable of readily reciting passages or confirming instantly whether or not certain words make an appearance in the Koran.

Amid the pressures of a heated vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate and congressman, hurried to relay his take on American values – presumably respect for other religions, standing for democracy and human rights and against corruption, solid security for Americans, and a strong foreign policy – before the moderator broke in with a question on Iran.

Another untouted value for Americans is curiosity – the exploring of other cultures and welcoming the other into our midst. The forays into studying, discussing, dissecting the Koran will include mistakes and misunderstandings. Artists of all types will test the boundaries. But that curiosity signals the ultimate desire for empathy, respect and desire for connections.

Susan Froetschel is the author of Fear of Beauty, a novel set in Afghanistan, about a woman’s struggle to learn to read with the help of the Koran.

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  • Kingofkings1

    I couldn’t understand Ryan’s response and he seemed to be vacillating. Perhaps the moderator should have worded the questions more clearly such as: “Would you want someone to apologize to you if they urinated on your father’s corpse intentionally”?

  • Zainab

    The “rules” over the treatment of the Quran vary from region to region, sect to sect, family to family and even person to person. What is described in this article came from a particular interpretation. I am Muslim and do not believe that non-Muslims cannot touch the Quran or that I have to be ritually clean to touch the Quran. It has a symbolic place of respect, but the ideas of the Quran live outside what is written with ink and paper.

  • maceoin

    ‘Perhaps more amazing is how many young Muslim men have memorized the entire book, hundreds of verses, in Arabic – capable of readily reciting passages or confirming instantly whether or not certain words make an appearance in the Koran. ‘ You do not point out that a likely majority of the young Muslims who have memorized the Qur’an in Arabic do not understand a word of it because they don’t actually speak or read Arabic. Nor do you say that Islamic cuture strongly disapproves of any questioning of the text or its origins. Criticism is considered dangerous and blasphemous, leading to an approach that corrupts all other aspects of education. Young Jews and Christians have, on the whole, developed ways in which to read sacred texts that allow an honest appraisal of what Biblical authors may have been trying to say. And, of course, secularists have learned how to distance themselves from religious text in order to ask hard questions and place scriupture within its original context. The Islamic world has a long way to go on this, despite the effoprts of small numbers of modernists to take tafsir (Qur’an interpretation) in fresh directions.

  • msftex

    The Bible will never be upstaged by the quran ! Galatians 1:8-9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
    All that we require to know in regard to faith and practice is contained in the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation. John 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”

    Thus the Bible is the Word of God, and as such is divinely authoritative, completely infallible and absolutely sufficient.
    God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Not a prophet named Mohamed. God is Love. Jihad is hate.

  • MsMaiaAfricanQueen

    When this election is over, I want the person in the seat taken to make it his number one priority to promote camaraderie and cross-cultural appreciation among all of the people living in this country, no matter where they come from or how long they’ve been here or how long they plan to stay.

  • cs9243

    Stop talking abut religions and God, they do’t belong in a poltical debate. The moderator should not ask these questions and the candidates should stay away from them. Politics and religion do not mix.

  • cs9243

    According to recent (last week) Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 20% of Americans now have no afflation wih any establshed religions and identify themselves as agnostics or even atheists. The US should folow the European
    nations on this issue .Politics has no place for koran and bible.

  • DavidJ9

    halozcel2 –

    Islam preaches that it worships the God of Abraham. The overwhelming majority of Christians teach that they also worship the God of Abraham. You preach heretical doctrines.

  • DavidJ9

    There is no evidence that God had anything to do with the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian New Testament or the Q’ran.

    The BIble is full of claims that have been shown to be false. It seems absurd to blame God for the errors found in it.

  • DavidJ9

    And he refused to answer clearly whether he would apologize about misuse of the Q’ran. Does that me that he wants the Q’ran misused or that he is afraid to say people should behave in a civil manner. I guess Ayn Rand acolytes don’t have to care about anyone else.

  • Kingofkings1

    You say with certainty: “Allah of Islam is not God of Bible and there is not,miilion times not only one God”. The only one who can make the above statement is the creator of the entire existence. Are you the creator of existence?

  • Richard Moertl

    I think if you’re going around urinating on, or burning Qurans or Bibles for that matter, you need psychological help. Please seek that help now.

  • xexon

    I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read the Koran. I’ve read most of the world’s holy books at one time or another.

    My opinion is they’re all very much the same. Not a one is any greater than the other. So it becomes a matter of what you’re personally tuned towards. Either through culture or individual pursuit. “God” is a very personal thing and one size does not fit all as we all have different levels of understanding.

    When these beliefs leak into politics, it’s a recipe for disaster. Because you know that politician A or B is going to represent their own kind first if they play this card.

    And the underlying motive is often connected to our foreign policy…

    “Israel”…says the wind…….



    All the worlds religions require doing, doing, doing except one-Christianity-done! Jesus did it all it’s a free gift given to us we caan’t earn!

  • PhillyJimi1

    They’re just books with stories in them. They’re not special or magical. Just paper and ink.

    If you think they are more then just simple books then please seek some psychological help.

    That said. knowingly preforming acts that start riots where people are likely to die is also irresponsible and not an act that should be respected. Also over reacting to an obvious childish attempt to provoke you into a bad reaction is immature.

  • PhillyJimi1

    My friend you may want to punch your history teacher in the face (not liberality) for not teaching you US history. There is something called the 1st amendment you should of learned about. The US government doesn’t tell its citizens what to believe in or what not to believe in.

    I am an atheist but I don’t want the US government telling it’s citizens not to believe what ever they choose to believe in. I am more then willing to die to defend all US citizens right to freely worship what ever crazy god they want to worship as long as they respect my choices not to worship or respect their beliefs.